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Colonialism and India

Colonialism and India

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Published by Medway08
General essay by Nils Ole Gluck
General essay by Nils Ole Gluck

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Published by: Medway08 on May 22, 2008
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Post-Colonialism: Definition, Development and Examples from India
This speech deals with the phenomenon of post-colonialism. It presents general definitions of the post-colonial theory and provides some information about its development as well as illustrating background knowledge about basic landmarks of India's colonial past. It then concentrates onthe post-colonial development of India which was a British colony until 1947.
1. Post-colonialism in general1.1 Definition
Post-colonialism is an intellectual direction (sometimes also called an “era” or the “post-colonialtheory”) that exists since around the middle of the 20
th
century. It developed from and mainlyrefers to the time after colonialism. The post-colonial direction was created as colonial countries became independent. Nowadays, aspects of post-colonialism can be found not only in sciencesconcerning history, literature and politics, but also in approach to culture and identity of both thecountries that were colonised and the former colonial powers. However, post-colonialism cantake the colonial time as well as the time after colonialism into consideration.
1.2 Development
The term “decolonisation” seems to be of particular importance while talking about post-colonialism. In this case it means an intellectual process that persistently transfers theindependence of former-colonial countries into people’s minds. The basic idea of this process isthe deconstruction of old-fashioned perceptions and attitudes of power and oppression that wereadopted during the time of colonialism.First attempts to put this long-term policy of “decolonising the minds” into practice could beregarded in the Indian population after India became independent from the British Empire in1947.However, post-colonialism has increasingly become an object of scientific examination since1950 when Western intellectuals began to get interested in the “Third World countries”. In theseventies, this interest lead to an integration of discussions about post-colonialism in variousstudy courses at American Universities. Nowadays it also plays a remarkable role at EuropeanUniversities.A major aspect of post-colonialism is the rather violent-like, unbuffered contact or clash of cultures as an inevitable result of former colonial times; the relationship of the colonial power tothe (formerly) colonised country, its population and culture and vice versa seems extremelyambiguous and contradictory.This contradiction of two clashing cultures and the wide scale of problems resulting from it must be regarded as a major theme in post-colonialism: For centuries the colonial suppressor often had been forcing his civilised values on the natives. But when the native population finally gainedindependence, the colonial relicts were still omnipresent, deeply integrated in the natives’ mindsand were supposed to be removed.So decolonisation is a process of change, destruction and, in the first place, an attempt to regain
 
and lose power. While natives had to learn how to put independence into practice, colonial powers had to accept the loss of power over foreign countries. However, both sides have to dealwith their past as suppressor and suppressed.This complicated relationship mainly developed from the Eurocentric perspective from whichthe former colonial powers saw themselves: Their colonial policy was often criticised asarrogant, ignorant, brutal and simply naïve. Their final colonial failure and the totalindependence of the once suppressed made the process of decolonisation rather tense andemotional.Post-colonialism also deals with conflicts of identity and cultural belonging. Colonial powerscame to foreign states and destroyed main parts of native tradition and culture; furthermore, theycontinuously replaced them with their own ones. This often lead to conflicts when countries became independent and suddenly faced the challenge of developing a new nationwide identityand self-confidence.As generations had lived under the power of colonial rulers, they had more or less adopted their Western tradition and culture. The challenge for these countries was to find an individual way of  proceeding to call their own. They could not get rid of the Western way of life from one day tothe other; they could not manage to create a completely new one either.On the other hand, former colonial powers had to change their self-assessment. This paradoxidentification process seems to be what decolonisation is all about, while post-colonialism is theintellectual direction that deals with it and maintains a steady analysis from both points of view.So how is this difficult process of decolonisation being done? By the power of language, evenmore than by the use of military violence. Language is the intellectual means by which post-colonial communication and reflection takes place. This is particularly important as mostcolonial powers tried to integrate their language, the major aspect of their civilised culture, inforeign societies.A lot of Indian books that can be attached to the era of post-colonialism, for instance, are writtenin English. The cross-border exchange of thoughts from both parties of the post-colonial conflictis supported by the use of a shared language.To give a conclusion of it all, one might say that post-colonialism is a vivid discussion aboutwhat happened with the colonial thinking at the end of the colonial era. What legacy arouse fromthis era? What social, cultural and economical consequences could be seen and are still visibletoday? In these contexts, one examines alternating experiences of suppression, resistance,gender, migration and so forth. While doing so, both the colonising and colonised side are takeninto consideration and related to each other. The main target of post-colonialism remains thesame: To review and to deconstruct one-sided, worn-out attitudes in a lively discussion of colonisation.
2. The post-colonial experience in India2.1 History of Indian colonialism
In the 16
th
century, European powers began to conquer small outposts along the Indian coast.Portugal, the Netherlands and France ruled different regions in India before the “British East
 
India Company” was founded in 1756.The British colonialists managed to control most parts of India while ruling the key citiesCalcutta, Madras and Bombay as the main British bases. However, there still remained a fewindependent regions (Kashmir among others) whose lords were loyal to the British Empire.In 1857, the first big rebellion took place in the north of India. The incident is also named “Firstwar of Indian Independence”, the “Sepoy Rebellion” or the “Indian Mutiny”, depending on theindividual perspective. This was the first time Indians rebelled in massive numbers against the presence and the rule of the British in South Asia. The rebellion failed and the British colonialistscontinued their rule.In 1885, the “National Indian Congress” (popularly called “Congress”) was founded. Itdemanded that the Indians should have their proper legitimate share in the government. Fromthen on, the Congress developed into the main body of opposition against British colonial rule.Besides, a Muslim anti-colonial organisation was founded in 1906, called the “Muslim League”.While most parts of the Indian population remained loyal to the British colonial power during theFirst World War, more and more Muslim people joined the Indian independence movement sincethey were angry about the division of the Ottoman Empire by the British.The non-violent resistance against British colonial rule, mainly initiated and organised byMahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, finally lead to independence in 1947.At the same time, the huge British colony was split into two nations: The secular Indian Unionand the smaller Muslim state of Pakistan. The Muslim League had demanded for an independentMuslim state with a majority of Muslims.India became a member of the British Commonwealth after 1947.
2.2 Post-colonial development in India
The Partition of India (also called the “Great Divide”) lead to huge movements and an ethnicconflict across the Indian-Pakistani border. While around 10 million Hindus und Sikhs wereexpelled from Pakistan, about 7 million Muslims crossed the border to from India to Pakistan.Hundreds of thousands of people died in this conflict. Ever since these incidents, there have beentensions between India and Pakistan which lead to different wars particularly in the Kashmir region.For decades the Congress Party ruled the democratic country which had become a republic withits own constitution in 1950. In 1977 the opposition gained the majority of votes. In 1984, after the Congress Party had regained the majority, conflicts with the cultural minority of the Sikhslead to the assassination of the Indian prime minister Indira Ghandi.Today, apart from the significant economic progress, India is still facing its old problems:Poverty, overpopulation, environmental pollution as well as ethnic and religious conflicts

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